With plenty of change for the Sacramento Kings in the past year comes a lot of new pieces to the puzzle — a new beginning, a new owner, a new general manager, a new coach and a new style.
The bottom line is this is the new era for the Kings.
New can be good, but it can also be bad. In the case of the only pro sports team in Sacramento, these new moves are on target to assembling a successful franchise and returning the team to its glory days.
That feat starts at the top with new owner Vivek Ranadive. While it is extremely easy for Ranadive to look like a fantastic owner after the Capital City watched the Maloof brothers’ deceit and lies for far too long, Ranadive has made a great effort to give Sacramento hope again.
On the contrary, Ranadive appears to have the opposite persona of the Maloofs. He seems to genuinely care about Sacramento and wants to revive the city. What’s key though, is that Ranadive isn’t just talking; he’s actually putting together a great management team.
The foundation of any sports franchise is the general manager (GM). Thank goodness for Sac Town that’s a new face. Replacing the outdated Geoff Petrie is Pete D’Alessandro. A former executive for the Denver Nuggets and the Golden State Warriors, D’Alessandro is known for his basketball smarts and communication with other members within the franchise. He realizes that rebuilding the Kings is a process and unlike Petrie, knows that you actually need to have talented players to be a playoff contender.
For example, D’Alessandro inked DeMarcus Cousins, the face of the Kings, to a four-year extension. He traded Tyreke Evans for Greivis Vasquez to aid Head Coach Michael Malone’s effort in creating an unselfish offense and at this year’s draft, brought in a rookie class that with some work could be important pieces in years to come. D’Alessandro also signed a player he is familiar with in power forward Carl Landry, who helped guide the Warriors to the postseason last year. Also fitting in with Malone’s unselfish style of play is new signing Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, who is a defensive specialist on the wing, an important position in this fast-paced day and age of the NBA.
Ranadive also hired an advisor to help both himself and D’Alessandro. This advisor just happens to be a big name in the basketball world: Chris Mullin. This Hall of Famer, five-time NBA All-Star and member of the 1992 Dream Team not only knows the game of basketball, but has GM experience with the Warriors.
Bringing in Mullin shows Ranadive is serious about rebuilding. He’s bringing attention to Sacramento while assuring he has great leaders below him. In other words, he’s not taking the easy way out.
The last piece to the management puzzle, of course, is the coach. Ranadive chose Warriors assistant Malone, who has made clear that the identity of the Sacramento squad needs a revision. Malone also added former player Dee Brown and fan favorite and former King and fan favorite Corliss Williamson to his coaching staff. Williamson has a chance to be an impactful coach immediately, working with Cousins and the fellow big men down low.
One thing that has been guaranteed to change under Malone is Sacramento’s defense. Last season, the Kings gave up a dismal 105.1 points per game, the worst in the NBA.
Despite preaching defense, Malone does want to play fast and use the fast break, which suits the personnel of this young, athletic squad with numerous quick guards. The biggest change on the offensive end, though, should be the mentality. Malone is not going to tolerate selfish play, which is one reason the Kings shipped off Evans in turn for a past first point guard in Vasquez.
When noticing the background of this staff, Golden State comes up a lot. All have backgrounds with the Warriors; they all know each other, know the game, and as a result, are making the transition much more fluid while committing themselves to Sacramento.
Then, one extra piece was added to the front office. To die-hard Kings fans it was a shock: Shaquille O’Neal became a new minority owner. There is no introduction needed for the retired Lakers big man in the city of Sacramento, but despite the long-standing hatred toward him, which I don’t see changing no matter what he does, he might be the answer to Sacramento’s prayers.
For several years now, Cousins has not been reaching his potential. He’s had an attitude. He’s been suspended by the organization. He’s downright underperformed, but with O’Neal as his mentor, Cousins could become the franchise player the Kings need him to be. Plus, O’Neal is a huge name in the basketball world and it doesn’t hurt to bring that kind of attention to Sacramento.
The Kings rewarded Cousins with a big contract and are heavily relying on him to get his personal orders in check and improve his consistency as a dominating basketball player on a nightly basis. It will be up to Cousins to prove he deserved the extension.
Ultimately, whether the Kings can snap their seven-year streak without making the postseason is in the hands of the players. They determine the wins and losses. But the look of the Kings in the future and putting the pieces together to return to a playoff contender resides in the hands of the management.
So far, Sacramento is on the right track.
A version of this article appeared on page 5 of October 2, 2013′s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Art by Mingchen Shen of The Daily Nexus.